Angola is located in south-central Africa and is known formally as the Republic of Angola. It is surrounded by Democratic Republic of Congo to the north, Zambia to the east, and Namibia on the south. The Atlantic Ocean sits on its west coast. Once of its provinces, Cabinda, borders the Republic of Congo as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Angola’s capital city is Luanda.
From the 16th century to 1975, Angola was an overseas territory of Portugal. An intense civil war took place after Angola’s independence between 1975 to 2002. In sub-Saharan Africa, Angola is the second largest oil and diamond producer. Despite this production, its infant mortality and life expectancy are some of world’s worst. The government signed a
peace treaty with a faction of the FLEX, a guerrilla group in a northern Cabinda enclave, home to 65 percent of Angola’s oil production. The group is still active.
The earliest known human inhabitants of the area were Khoisan hunter-gatherers. During the Bantu migrations, Bantu tribes largely replaced them, although Khoisan’s do remain in southern Angola in small numbers. Arriving from the north, Bantu tribes likely came from near the area of the modern Republic of Cameroon. When the Bantu encountered the Khoisans in what is now Angola, they easily dominated them. The Khoisans were less advanced then the Bantu. Bantu establishment, which took centuries, gave rise to groups with different ethnic characteristics.
These BaKongo kingdoms traded with other cities and peoples along the westerns and southwestern African coast, but did not trade across oceans. This contrasts with Zimbabwe’s Mutapa civilization’s trade with China, India, and civilizations in the Persian Gulf. Mutapa and BaKongo did engage in limited trade in copper and iron for food, salt, and textiles across the Kongo River.
Angola’s Colonial Historyortuguese Rule
The Portuguese invaded the area now known as Angola in the late 15th century. When Portugal established relations with the Kongo State in 1483, the Ndongo and Lunda kingdoms existed in the area. The Kongo state stretched from the south near the Kwanza River to the area now part of Gabon in the north. Angola became part of Portugal’s European trade link with India and Southeast Asia. In 1575, Paulo Dias de Novais, a Portuguese explorer founded Luanda as São Paulo de Loanda. The initial settlement consisted of one hundred settler families and four hundred soldiers.
An important Portuguese settlement, Benguela, was founded as a fort in 1587 and became a town in 1617. Other forts and trading settlements along the current day coast of Angola, relying on the slave trade, were established to trade raw materials for the items needed for survival. The African slave trade, particularly around Imbangala, provided slave labor to Europeans and their agents.
In exchange for slaves, Europeans would export manufactured goods to Africa. Most laves were traded to Portuguese merchants for use on agricultural plantations in Brazil, a trade which lasted until the mid-19th century.
A series of treaties and wars in the 16th century allowed Portugal to take control of the coastal area and form the Angola colony. While the Portuguese were involved in the Restoration War, the Dutch occupied Luanda from 1641 to 1648. During this time, they consolidated their rule against Portuguese resistance by allying with local tribes. Salvador de Sá retook Luanda for Portugal at the head of a fleet in 1648 and subsequently restored Portugal’s territory to its prior size by 1650. In 1649, treaties regulated Portugal’s relations with Kongo and the Njinga and Ndongo kingdoms in 1656. The last great Portuguese expansion occurred in 1671 with Pungo Andongo’s conquest. Excursion to conquer Kongo in 1670 and Matamba in 1681 both failed. Behind Benguela, Portugal began to expand its holdings in the 18th century and moved into other regions in the mid-19th century.
After the Berlin Conference in 1885, fixing the colony’s borders, British and Portuguese investments in mining began to develop the back country. Based on forced labor systems, railways and agriculture also developed. The Portuguese did not gain full control over the hinterland until the early 20th century. Portugal designated the area the Overseas Province of Angola in 1951. After nearly 500 years of Portuguese presence, independence called were met with mixed reactions. In the 1950’s, political organizations formed and began to demand rights in international forums like the Non-Aligned Movement.
Portugal refused to give in to the demands of nationals for independence. In 1961, armed conflicts began when nationalist guerillas attacked civilians in northeastern Angola. The struggle, eventually named the Colonial War, the nationalists groups were the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) formed in 1956, the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) formed in 1961 and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) started in 1966. The fighting and the 1974 coup d’état in Lisbon, overthrowing Marcelo Caetano’s regime, eventually earned Angola its independence on November 11, 1975.
The coup led the new Portuguese rulers to institute democratic change at home and recognize colonial independence. As a result, Portuguese citizens left its African territories en masse. These destitute refugees, known as retornados, numbered over 1 million.
Independence and Civil War
A civil war broke out in Angola after independence in 1975, lasting several decades and claiming millions in lives and refugees. Negotiations in Portugal in 1974, itself experiencing turmoil at the time, led to a transitional government being established by Angola’s three main guerilla groups in January of 1975.
A mere two months later, the MPLA, FNLA, and UNITA began fighting. This led to the country’s division into zones under each group’s control. The war became a proxy war in the Cold War after the world’s superpowers were drawn into the conflict. The FNLA and UNITA received support from the United States, Brazil, Portugal, and South Africa. Cuba and the Soviet Union supported the MPLA.
Virtus Unita Fortior, meaning “Virtue is stronger when united” in Latin, is Angola’s motto. The President, Prime Minister (currently Paulo Kassoma), and the Council of Ministers make up the government’s executive branch. The President has had significant political power for decades. The Council of Ministers is composed of all government ministers and meets regularly on policy issues.
The President appoints the 18 provincial governors. The 1992 Constitutional law established the government’s structure and set forth duties and rights of citizens. The legal system, based on Portugal’s customary law, is fragmented and weak. Courts are only operational in 12 of Angola’s 140 municipalities. The Supreme Court acts as a court of appeals. A statute authorized a Constitutional Court and gave it judicial review powers, but it has never been instituted.
On September 5, 2008, parliamentary elections resulted in the MPLA winning 81 percent of the votes. UNITA was the next closest with 10 percent. The elections, the first since 1992, were considered unfair and only partially free due to many irregularities.
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Phone Code: +244
Population: 29,78 Millions
Political System: Presidentialist
Bay of Luanda - Angola